New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed wholly uncalled for the Kerala government's relaxations for Bakrid in areas with a high COVID positivity rate and said giving in to pressure from traders discloses a sorry state of affairs.
Directing the state government to "heed the Right to Life", the apex court also warned Kerala it will take action if the easing of curbs leads to further spread of the virus and this is brought before it by any person.
To give in to pressure groups (of traders) so that the citizenry of India is laid bare to a nationwide pandemic discloses a sorry state of affairs. Even otherwise, assurances from traders and nothing more do not inspire any confidence in the people of India or this court, a bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai said.
We direct the Kerala government to give heed to Right to Life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution, it said.
The bench was hearing an application raising the issue of the Bakrid relaxations in Kerala. The apex court had last week taken cognisance on its own of media reports on the Uttar Pradesh government's decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra amid the Covid pandemic.
The apex court referred to a paragraph in the affidavit filed by the Kerala government and said it disclosed that the state has given in to associations of traders, which made a representation that they have stocked up goods for the purpose of Bakrid.
What is extremely alarming is the fact that in Category D where infection rates are the highest, a full day of relaxation has been granted, it said.
We state that this affidavit discloses a sorry state of affairs as has been stated above and does not in real manner safeguard the Right to Life and Health guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution it said.
We may also indicate that if as a result of this (relaxations), if any untoward spread of COVID-19 takes place, any member of the public may approach this court after which the court will take action accordingly. The IA is disposed of, the top court said.
On Monday, the Kerala government had conveyed to the Supreme Court that the prolonged restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 have made the people restless and hence lockdown cannot be extended indefinitely.
It pointed out that COVID restrictions and economic slowdown were badly affecting people's lives. The government told the court that relaxations were announced for three days because of the demand raised by the opposition parties and traders organisations.
A Delhi-based Malayali businessman P K D Nambiar filed the petition in Supreme Court alleging that the Kerala government was playing with the lives of people by giving relaxation in curbs at a time when the country was facing an emergency situation.
Earlier the opposition Congress and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had warned of legal action against the three-day relaxations announced in the state.
Congress National Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi had tweeted if Kanwar Yatra was wrong, then so were the relaxations for Bakrid, especially in a state which was presently one of the "hotbeds" for COVID-19 infection. "Deplorable act by Kerala Govt to provide 3 days relaxations for Bakrid celebrations especially because it's one of the hotbeds for Covid-19 at present. If Kanwar Yatra is wrong, so is Bakra Eid public celebrations," he tweeted.
The Indian Medical Association said it was "pained" to see that amidst rising COVID-19 cases in Kerala, the state government has issued an order to ease lockdown in the state "on the pretext of religious gatherings of Bakrid". Terming the government move as "unwarranted" and "inappropriate", the IMA said, "When many northern states like Jammu and Kashmir, and UP have stopped, with a constructive sense of public safety, the traditional and popular pilgrimage yatras, it is unfortunate that the state of Kerala has taken this decision which will pave way for mass gatherings."
(With PTI inputs)